In December 1987, three young teenagers broke into the school bus depot in Purdy and smashed as many windows as they could reach. Key Peninsula Middle School was broken into and computers were vandalized.
Lions Club members Hugh McMillan and Rhys Wood sought retribution for damages and brought a class action lawsuit against the parents of the teens.
News media covered the story and met with McMillan and Wood at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. McMillan faced the camera alone and said, “Let’s do something.” The two men expected negative reprisals from the community. Instead, within minutes of the news release, McMillan’s phone was ringing.
Nineteen people met at what was then the Huckleberry Inn in Key Center. A week later, January 11, 1988, the next meeting was hosted at the Civic Center and attended by 124 people.
Pierce County Sheriff Ray Fjetland, Sgt. Seweer (the deputy in charge of Pierce County this side of the Narrows Bridge) and Pierce County Executive Joe Stortini attended the meetings and gave their support of the community effort.
McMillan came up with the name Citizens Against Crime (CAC) and designed a logo. Board members were elected, with McMillan taking the lead as the first president. Someone told him, “They’re all enthused now, Hugh, but you’ll never see them again after six months.”
“This is the longest six months in history,” McMillan said. “We’re still going.”
The sheriff’s department initiated a 10-hour training program. Members answered the phone, shredded documents and filed routine reports. Eventually, the department hired paid employees to take over responsibilities done by CAC volunteers.
In 1995 a plan was formulated to have a mobile patrol. Gig Harbor car dealers offered to loan cars, but insurance problems left them with the alternative plan, using magnetic signs with the CAC logo mounted on private vehicles. Volunteers do not carry weapons, but became the eyes and ears of the county, and were provided tape recorders and log books.
Initial resentment by deputies soon changed. Someone from the sheriff’s department attends CAC meetings whenever they are able. It is a good way to meet the deputies who serve the community and let them know the issues in the area.
The Key Peninsula is considered a very low crime area. McMillan said that if you don’t report the crime, it didn’t happen.
We have lost deputies because they were transferred to other districts with higher crime rates said current CAC president, Cindy Worden. Not all 9-1-1 calls get transferred to the sheriff’s department. Keep track of the incident and time you call. The department checks the list of reported calls with calls they actually receive. They want to get more officers out here, but need cooperation of the citizens, she said.
According to Worden, local crimes committed in the first half of 2013 have already surpassed the number for the entire year of 2012. She said the CAC goal is to get more members and for every neighborhood to have watches.
Worden advises people to know the vehicles that belong on your street. Lock your car and keep valuables out of sight. Car prowlers are looking for easy access and so are home invaders. Summer temperatures offer an opportunity to burglars during this time of the year.
“CAC isn’t just about crime. It is about safety,” Worden said. “Remember to slow down in construction zones. Watch the speed limits.”
The CAC would like to invite prior members to meet and celebrate at 6 p.m. Aug. 15, at the home of Cindy Worden.
The CAC is hopeful that more community members will get involved.
“We are looking for new volunteer patrol members to help keep our area crime-free. Join us at our meetings at the Home fire station on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. Our next scheduled meeting will be on Sept. 19,” Worden said.
Individuals also can email CAC if they need CAC signs, want to start a block watch or need a speaker for a local organization or event.
For celebration directions or more information, call Worden at (253) 851-2401 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.